NYC's concrete business is solid

Cement mixer on a construction site

TEXT OF STORY

Doug Krizner: Building construction has slowed in many parts of the country. But in New York City, the business is booming. And it's boom time for concrete companies. From WNYC in New York, Lisa Chow reports.


Lisa Chow: Nobody likes to sit in rush hour traffic, but for a concrete truck driver, thousands of dollars are on the line. The stuff they're delivering is more perishable than fruit.

Joseph Ferrara Junior is vice president of a company that supplies concrete in New York. He's working on the new Mets stadium, the World Trade Center Memorial, and an expanded subway line. He says concrete has only 90 minutes from the time it leaves the plant before it begins to harden.

Joseph Ferrara, Jr.: The worst possible thing that could happen, you get a set up in your barrel. Every concrete producer has had to chop concrete out of his barrel, and it's a very expensive screw-up. Not screw-up, but just happens.

The 90-minute rule means builders can't truck in concrete from Connecticut, for example, because it's too far away.

There are only a handful of big concrete suppliers in the New York area. They've got plenty of raw material, but they don't always have the trucking capacity to get mixed concrete to all the big projects that need it.

You'd think that might spark competition in the concrete supply business, but Joseph Ferrara Senior says getting into the game is expensive.

Joseph Ferrera, Sr.: Yeah, I just went out and ordered six trucks. That's another million plus dollars. Suppose I tell you my teamster almost cost me $75 an hour. And then we start talking about cost of raw materials, and the cost of real estate taxes and the cost of real estate, et cetera et cetera.

Companies like Ferrara's supply concrete contractors who are able to charge twice as much for jobs they were three years ago.

Pat Di Filippo works for Turner Construction, which hires concrete contractors.

Pat Di Filippo: They start to look at all the parts and pieces in their bid and they just keep trying to ratchet it up a little bit and see if they win. And they keep winning. And you know why they're winning? Because there's very limited competition that's out there when there's a lot of work.

Concrete suppliers are making the most of the demand.

Ferrara Senior says he's expanding his company's plant capacity and fleet of trucks. But he's been around for a while, so he knows the construction business in New York has its ups and downs. He says he's got no idea when this boom may end, or when the next one might come around again.

In New York, I'm Lisa Chow for Marketplace.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...